Camera Plates and L Brackets

Ron Niebrugge Equipment, How to 9 Comments

Ballhead Clamp 

Pictured is a quick release clamp on the top of a BH-55 Ballhead.

Trying to attach your camera onto the threaded post you find on top of many tripods, is a slow, awkward process that will have you leaving your tripod in the car.  By using a quick release clamp on your ballhead (pictured above), makes attaching your camera, or lens a quick and easy process.  All you need is the corresponding metal camera plate mounted to the bottom of your camera, or any lenses that may have a tripod mount. 

The plate is a very simple device, it is basically a flat piece of metal with dove-tails on the edges.  This plate slides into the clamp, and allows a quick secure connection between camera and tripod ballhead. 

Now in the days of film, my camera was light enough that a simple flat plate on the bottom of my camera was all I used.  If I wanted to shot in the vertical position, I would cantilever the camera off to the side as pictured below.  


Today, it seems that many digital cameras are extra heavy, and having the camera off to the side isn’t very stable.  Now I use a L bracket, which effectively puts a plate on two sides of the camera.  This allows you to mount the camera in either a horizontal or vertical position, and still keep the camera centered over the ball head. 

L Bracket

There is an additional benefit with a L bracket.  With an ordinary plate, even though you moved the camera just a short distance when going from vertical to horizontal, it often meant recomposing the scene.  With a L bracket, the lens is kept in the same position – if the scene allows it, you can quickly photograph both a vertical and horizontal without recomposing.  Of course, most scenes are not that simple.  If I don’t have to recompose when moving from horizontal to vertical, I’m probably not working my compositions hard enough.

Again, these specialized pieces of equipment aren’t cheap – I imagine the market for such items is fairly small.  I have always purchased my plates from Really Right Stuff, and a typical plate costs about $55, and a L bracket runs about $180.  Really Right Stuff does a wonderful job with their L plates.  They are perfectly designed for each camera giving you full access to any buttons or compartments on your camera – nothing is blocked.

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Comments 9

  1. That’s great info to know Ron. I too have that problem w/ the camera coming loose sometimes on vertical photos. I guess I’ll have to get an L plate eventually.

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    Thanks Richard,

    You know I went a long time without using one – now I wouldn’t use a camera without one because they are so convenient.

  3. Same here Ron, I went for quite awhile without a L-bracket – now I have to factor in another $200 on top of each new camera body. Same as you, can’t live without it now.

  4. Think I’ll throw my two cents in and support your comments on L bracket vs base plate.

    When placing the order for the ball head and base plate recently I was just sure that I took very few ‘portrait’ oriented photos. I just knew that flopping the camera over to the side of the ball head would work just fine.

    Fortunately RRS 30-day return/exchange policy was still an option after the first short field trip. The decision was made in the first hour of that trip that an L bracket was going to be on its way shortly and the base plate was going back.

    I find operating the camera off the side of the ball head just plain awkward. Unless shooting almost straight down at the ground or straight up at the sky (shooting northern lights), plain awkward to point of thinking of abandoning the tripod all together. And that defeats the purpose of spending considerable hard earned cash for a really good tripod/ball head combination.

    Now if I had realized in those 30 days how often I could use the little leveling bubble RRS puts in some of their quick release clamps… for a mere $15 🙂



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    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mark and Warren! The L bracket is sure sweet! I actually knocked my camera over when setting up the vertical off to the side image for the blog – it is just too tipsy.

    Warren – the little bubble level in the RRS clamps really are nice!


  6. Hi Ron,

    I stumbled across your website when searching the net for some pictures of spruce trees in Alaska. I really love your pictures and all of the wonderful info. you have provided. I am going to get a tripod soon so this info. is very helpful. I think I will opt. to get my light weight hiking one first. Probably the GT0541 along with the ball head/ plate and L bracket. I take tons of pictures and want to get better, so I’d like to learn more technical things. I have a Rebel XTi, and was in Alaska last year with my new camera and lenses. It was a great adventure, but lost many good shots because I didn’t know much about my camera or lenses. My lenses are the Canon 70-300 IS, and 100-400 IS. When you have time it would be great if you could post some info. about Cameras, Lenses and F stop info. I don’t know about F stops. ??

    Also, wanted to know if you offer any type of courses, and if you know of any good books to read about tech. info for taking pictures.

    Thanks very much for your beautiful pictures, and for sharing your info. !

    Dena Proctor

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